Ruqaiya Sultan Begum

Ruqaiya Sultan Begum (alternative spelling: Ruqayya, Ruqayyah) (c. 1542 – 1626) was the first and chief wife of the third Mughal emperor, Akbar.[2][3]

Ruqaiya Sultan Begum
Shahzadi of the Mughal Empire
Empress consort of the Mughal Empire
Bornc. 1542
(aged 84)[1]
Agra, Mughal Empire
(m. 1556; d. 1605)
HouseTimurid dynasty
DynastyMughal dynasty
FatherHindal Mirza
MotherSultanam Begum
ReligionSunni Islam

Ruqaiya was a first cousin of her husband and was a Mughal princess by birth. Her father, Hindal Mirza, was the youngest brother of Akbar's father, Humayun. She was betrothed to Akbar at the age of nine and married him at 14, but remained childless throughout her marriage. She was being the first wife also known as Zan-i-Kalan.[citation needed] In later life, she raised Akbar and Mariam-uz-Zamani's grandson, Khurram (the future emperor Shah Jahan).

Family and lineageEdit

Hindal Mirza, presents young Akbar's portrait to Humayun, during Akbar's circumcision celebrations in Kabul, c. 1546 AD[4]

Ruqaiya Sultan Begum was born into the Timurid dynasty as a Mughal princess, and was the only daughter of Mughal prince Hindal Mirza, the youngest son of the first Mughal emperor Babur from his wife Dildar Begum.[5] Ruqaiya's mother, Sultanam Begum, was the daughter of Muhammad Musa Khwaja and the younger sister of Mahdi Khwaja, who was the brother-in-law of Emperor Babur, being the husband of his sister, Khanzada Begum.[6] Ruqaiya was named after the Islamic Prophet Muhammad's daughter, Ruqayyah bint Muhammad.[1]

Ruqaiya's oldest paternal uncle was the second Mughal emperor Humayun (who later became her father-in-law as well), while her most notable paternal aunt was the imperial princess, Gulbadan Begum, the author of Humayun-nama ("Book of Humayun").[7]

Ruqaiya was a descendant of Timur or Tamerlane the Great through his son Miran Shah,[1] like her husband Akbar.[8]

Marriage to AkbarEdit

On 20 November 1551, Hindal Mirza died fighting valorously for Humayun in a battle against their half-brother, Kamran Mirza's forces. Humayun was overwhelmed with grief upon the death of his youngest brother, who had expiated for his former disobedience by his blood, but his amirs consoled him by saying that his brother was blessed in having thus fallen a martyr in the service of the Emperor.[9]

Out of affection for the memory of his brother, Humayun betrothed Hindal's nine-year-old daughter, Ruqaiya, to his son Akbar. Their betrothal took place in Kabul, Afghanistan, shortly after Akbar's first appointment as a viceroy in the province of Ghazni.[10][11] On their engagement, Humayun conferred on the imperial couple, all the wealth, army and adherents of Hindal, and Ghazni, which was one of Hindal's jagir, was given to Akbar, who was appointed as its viceroy and was also given the command of his uncle's army.[11][9]

During the period of political uncertainty following Humayun's death in 1556, Ruqaiya and the other female members of the imperial family were staying in Kabul.[12] In 1557, Ruqaiya came to India and joined Akbar in Punjab, shortly after Sikandar Shah was defeated and had submitted to the Mughals. She was accompanied by her mother-in-law Hamida Banu Begum, her aunt Gulbadan Begum, and many other female members of the imperial family. Ruqaiya's marriage with Akbar was solemnized near Jalandhar, Punjab, when both of them were 14 years old. After resting for about four months in Punjab, the imperial family set out for Delhi. The Mughals were at last ready to settle down in India.[13]


Ruqaiya became Empress of the Mughal Empire at the age of fourteen years following her husband's accession to the throne in 1556. She remained childless throughout her marriage but was entrusted the upbringing of Akbar and Mariam-uz-Zamani's grandson, Prince Khurram (the future emperor Shah Jahan).[14] Jagat Gosain's son Khurram, considered to be auspicious as per his astrological signs was insisted by Akbar to be raised under his care in his palace than Salim's palace and therefore was raised in Akbar's palace. He was placed under the care of his first wife Ruqaiya sultan who resided in Akbar's harem and she is stated to have raised Khurram affectionately [15]

Jahangir noted in his memoirs that Ruqaiya had loved his son, Khurram, "a thousand times more than if he had been her own [son]."[16] Khurram remained with her until he had turned almost 14. After Akbar died in 1605, the young prince was then, finally, allowed to return to his father's household, and thus, returned to the care of his mother, Jagat Gosain whom he cared for and loved immensely.[15] Khurram in his biography and court chronicles referred to his mother Bilqis Makani with the epithet 'Hazrat'.[17] She also raised Shah Jahan's first daughter, Parhez Banu Begum.[18][19]

She remained one of Akbar's chief consorts from the time of their marriage in 1557 until his death in 1605.[20][21] This was primarily due to her exalted lineage, being Mirza Hindal's daughter, a Mughal princess as well as Akbar's first wife.[20]

Once, Ruqaiya and her mother-in-law, Hamida Banu Begum, by their joint effort could not secure a pardon for a Sunni Muslim who had murdered a Shia in Lahore purely out of religious fanaticism.[22]

In 1607, Jahangir organized a hunting trip to Kabul accompanied by his harem. Ruqaiya during this trip, for the first time paid homage to her father's mausoleum, Hindal Mirza, and later was also buried alongside him at the Gardens of Babur in Kabul.[23] In the same year, Sher Afghan Khan, the jagirdar of Burdwan died and his widowed wife, Mehr-un-Nissa (later Empress Nur Jahan) was summoned to Agra by Jahangir for providing her protection and was a lady in waiting to Ruqaiya Sultan.[24] Given the precarious political connections of Sher Afghan before his death, his family was in great danger and therefore for her protection, Mehr-un-Nissa needed to be at the Mughal court in Agra. As her husband had gone down in ignominy and she could have rightly expected only the worst.[25] Mehr-un-Nissa served as lady-in-waiting to the Ruqaiya Begum for over four years.[24] The relationship that grew up between Ruqaiya and Mehr-un-Nissa appears to have been a tender one. The Dutch merchant and travel writer, Pieter van den Broecke, described their relationship in his Hindustan Chronicle: "This Begum [Ruqaiya] conceived a great affection for Mehr-un-Nissa [Nur Jahan]; she loved her more than others and always kept her in her company."[20]


Inside the Gardens of Babur, located in Kabul, Afghanistan

Ruqaiya died in 1626 in Agra, at the age of eighty-four. She was buried on the fifteenth level in the Gardens of Babur (Bagh-e-Babur) in Kabul, Afghanistan beside the grave of her father Hindal Mirza as per her wish. The Gardens of Babur is the final resting place of her grandfather, Emperor Babur, as well as that of her father, Hindal Mirza.[26]

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ a b c Gulbadan, Begum (1902). The History of Humāyūn (Humāyūn-Nāma). Translated by Beveridge, Annette S. Guildford: Billing and Sons Ltd. p. 274.
  2. ^ Burke, S. M. (1989). Akbar, the greatest Mogul. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 142.
  3. ^ Jahangir, Emperor of Hindustan (1999). The Jahangirnama: Memoirs of Jahangir, Emperor of India. Translated by Thackston, Wheeler Mc.1542. Oxford University Press. p. 437. ISBN 978-0-19-512718-8. Ruqayya-Sultan Begam, the daughter of Mirza Hindal and wife of His Majesty Arsh-Ashyani [Akbar], had passed away in Akbarabad. She was His Majesty's chief wife. Since she did not have children when Shahjahan was born His Majesty Arsh-Ashyani entrusted that "unique pearl of the caliphate" to the begum's care, and she undertook to raise the prince. She departed this life at the age of eighty-four.
  4. ^ Parodi, Laura E.; Wannell, Bruce (November 18, 2011). "The Earliest Datable Mughal Painting". Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  5. ^ Balabanlilar, Lisa (2012). Imperial identity in the Mughal Empire : Memory and Dynastic politics in Early Modern South and Central Asia. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-84885-726-1.
  6. ^ Faruqui, Munis D. (2012). The Princes of the Mughal Empire, 1504-1719. Cambridge University Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-1107022171.
  7. ^ Alam, Muzaffar (2004). The languages of political islam : India 1200 - 1800. London: Hurst. p. 126. ISBN 9781850657095.
  8. ^ Findly, p. 11
  9. ^ a b Erskine, William (1854). A History of India Under the Two First Sovereigns of the House of Taimur, Báber and Humáyun, Volume 2. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans. pp. 403, 404. ISBN 9781108046206.
  10. ^ Mehta, Jaswant Lal (1986). Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. p. 189. ISBN 8120710150.
  11. ^ a b Ferishta, Mahomed Kasim (2013). History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, Till the Year AD 1612. Cambridge University Press. p. 169. ISBN 9781108055550.
  12. ^ Gulbadan, Begum (1902). The History of Humāyūn (Humāyūn-Nāma). Translated by Beveridge, Annette S. Guildford: Billing and Sons Ltd. p. 56-57.
  13. ^ Eraly, Abraham (2000). Emperors of the Peacock Throne : the saga of the great Mughals. Penguin books. pp. 123, 272. ISBN 9780141001432.
  14. ^ Robinson, Annemarie Schimmel (2005). The Empire of the Great Mughals: history, art, and culture (Revised ed.). Sang-E-Meel Pub. pp. 149. ISBN 9781861891853.
  15. ^ a b Faruqui, Munis D. (27 August 2012). Princes of the Mughal Empire, 1504-1719. Cambridge University Press. p. 71. ISBN 9781107022171.
  16. ^ Jahangir (1968). Henry Beveridge (ed.). The Tūzuk-i-Jahāngīrī: or, Memoirs of Jāhāngīr, Volumes 1-2. Munshiram Manoharlal. p. 48. She was Akbar's first and principal wife but bore him no children. She long survived him.
  17. ^ Faruqui, Munis D. (27 August 2012). Princes of the Mughal Empire, 1504–1719. Cambridge University Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-107-02217-1.
  18. ^ Sarker, Kobita (2007). Shah Jahan and his paradise on earth: the story of Shah Jahan's creations in Agra and Shahjahanabad in the golden days of the Mughals (1. publ. ed.). Kolkata: K.P. Bagchi & Co. pp. 10, 187. ISBN 9788170743002.
  19. ^ Findly, p. 98
  20. ^ a b c Findly, p. 32
  21. ^ Nath, Renuka (1957). Notable Mughal and Hindu Women in the 16th and 17th Centuries A. D. Inter- India publications. p. 58.
  22. ^ Mukherjee, p.130
  23. ^ Findly, p. 121
  24. ^ a b Mohammad Shujauddin, Razia Shujauddin (1967). The Life and Times of Noor Jahan. Caravan Book House. p. 25.
  25. ^ Findly, p. 87
  26. ^ Ruggles, Fairchild (2011). Islamic Gardens and Landscapes. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 194. ISBN 9780812207286.
  27. ^ Lamb, Harold (1935). Nur Mahal. Doubleday, Doran & Co. ISBN 978-1299983229.
  28. ^ Sundaresan, Indu (2002). Twentieth wife: a novel (Paperback ed.). New York: Washington Square Press. p. 12. ISBN 9780743428187.
  29. ^ Sundaresan, Indu (2003). The Feast of Roses: A Novel. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780743481960.
  30. ^ Podder, Tanushree (2005). Nur Jahan's daughter. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. ISBN 8129107228.
  31. ^ Maheshwri, Neha (July 11, 2013). "Lavina Tandon replaces Smilie Suri in Jodha Akbar? - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  32. ^ Agarwal, Stuti (July 4, 2013). "Malikaa's cast revealed". The Times of India. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  33. ^ "Characters". Archived from the original on 2018-02-11. Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  34. ^ Maheshwri, Neha. "Lavina Tandon and Poorti Agarwal: Two Ruqaiyas on TV - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  35. ^ Tiwari, Vijaya (14 October 2014). "Maharana Pratap: Krip Suri and Falak Naaz as grown-up Akbar-Rukaiya in the show". The Times of India. Retrieved 30 July 2016.